Today’s guest blogger is Kevin Lechak, a BIA-MA volunteer, Ambassador Speaker and brain injury survivor. In today’s post he shares the raw experience of his trauma and recovery following his TBI in 2005.
It was a cool, brisk February morning when I left for school on Valentine’s Day, 2005. I was a senior at King Philip High School in Wrentham, Mass., and part of the track team. My favorite event was the high jump, leaping through the air only to fall back on huge, cushy mats. When I was done with practice, my friend and I decided to play football with the mats: Throwing the ball over them while the other jumped and landed on the mats after a catch.
I’m sure everyone has done that before, whether with mats or over a pool, but for me, something went wrong. I went up and caught the ball, but on my way down I overshot the mats and hit my heels on the edge and swung my head into the gym floor.
At first, none of it felt real. When I woke from the medically induced coma I asked my parents what we were doing in the hospital meaning, “Who are we visiting?” They said that I had been involved in an accident which I would never fully remember, and it left me in a coma for three weeks and five days. It seemed for the first week or so after I woke up that my body was just going through the motions of therapy, but I couldn’t make sense of the world–like I was still in a dream. All I wanted to do was forever close my eyes and cease to exist… it would have been so much easier to let go and not bother with all of the exhausting things the doctors and therapists were making me do.
And then something happened. I awoke one morning with a fire in my heart and a passion to better myself. I thought of all the people at my high school who must have been worried, along with friends and family, and therapy no longer existed as solely a necessity, but an opportunity to show everyone that I would not give up. I began to take therapy seriously and put all my effort into straining my muscles to work harder and more efficiently.
Though I was making serious headway physically, there are intellectual challenges i’m still coming to grips with today. My sense of smell was cut off from a severed nerve, which also cut the nerve to my right ear in the same instance. The doctors said that both would most likely never come back and not to hope too hard for it. My life truly changed in a heartbeat. It made me feel sub-human at first, but after a while, I’ve discovered the living truth behind that old saying, “It’s not the cards you’re given, but how you play them that matters.”